27 January 2013

Reflecting on the 2013 Financial Permaculture & Local Economy Summit

Posted by Admin under: Community Development; Entrepreneurship; Events; Food; Forum; Money; Permaculture; Sustainability .


Returning from a week of intensive work on the Verde Gardens foodshed, using the framework of Financial Permaculture, I find myself once again inspired by what people can do together to begin building a more sustainable future.

The design goal of the program was to provide Earth Learning with a plan of action for its Verde Gardens projects, which a 22-acre permaculture farm, a regional food hub, and a market café/kitchen complex adjacent to the farm in Homestead, FL.

Earth Learning is a nonprofit dedicated to being “a catalyst in the transition toward a life-sustaining culture in the Greater Everglades Bioregion by:

  • Creating Access to ecological  movements as they unfold locally;
  • Weaving Connection toward collective wisdom and a shared vision;
  • Building Capacity via ecological learning experiences; and
  • Growing Roots by inspiring and modeling local, eco-social ventures.”

After a number of years of developing its curriculum and approach, Earth Learning won a grant to develop the farm, the market, and the food hub to serve the needs of the local community, including a subdivision of 145 LEED-certified “green” homes for formerly homeless residents, and to end up employing as many as 27 people by the end of three years.

The Permaculture Institute’s approach to this challenge is a unique one. The Institute brings together experts in permaculture, regenerative entrepreneurship, and finance from across the country to serve the needs of a cutting-edge experiment in local sustainable revitalization. Participants included individuals of all ages, including local businesspeople, academics, and some college and university students in facilitated teams devoted to each of the three enterprises that Earth Learning has already launched into action.

For the first two days the participants heard from a half dozen keynote speakers, including

In between and after the keynotes, the attendees introduced each other and participated in small group conversations and exercises to strengthen teamwork and productive dialogue. Beginning in the afternoon on Day 2, and going through to the final presentations on Day 5, the teams received detailed information on the three social enterprises (the farm, the food hub, and the café/kitchen), brainstormed ideas, and developed sustainable business models and strategies for them. The discussions were intense, wide-ranging, and focused on collaborative design. At the end of the week each group presented its approach and conclusions to a larger audience, including community leaders, members, and local businesses.

Both process and content were discussed repeatedly, and a great diversity of insight, experience, and expertise were brought to bear on the challenges of creating a permaculture farm from scratch in unfavorable soils, growing a regional food hub to a self-sustaining level (which the USDA pegs at more than $1 million a year in volume of transactions), and a hip local market, café, and kitchen in a semi-rural location. The teams addressed everything from the financials to the organization charts to the  relations with the local community, drawing on both successes and failures elsewhere to empower the farmers, market and distribution managers, and administrators to succeed not only financially but also in terms of their greater social missions.

FPC13-Fruit&SpicePark1 0 00 00-01

Following Eric Toensmeier into the Fruit & Spice Park, Homestead, FL

Not all was work and meetings, though. Arriving early, I got to spend half a day touring the Fruit and Spice Park (where you can eat anything that falls from a tree, including many varieties of avocado and all kinds of exotic fruits) as well as touring the farm, before moving on to the camp that was our home base for the week. In the evenings we drank clear avocado wine (surprisingly very much like a Sauvignon Blanc, with only a slight hint of avocado flavor) around the fire pit, had a dance party, or hung out at a magical cave in the moonlight. We bonded, and shared some of our deepest hopes, fears, and concerns for the future of the planet and of human society.

FPC13-F&SPark2 0 00 01-37

Jack fruit

Many conversations ranged into ethics, group dynamics, the challenges of capitalism, climate change, food security and food sovereignty, relocalization, and a dozen other topics. The organizers challenged us to think about applying the principles of permaculture to society, and designing regenerative economic systems that could stand on their own.

Photos from the camp, the farm tour, and the keynotes:

FPC13-CampOwaissa1 0 00 06-41 FPC13-DRose 0 02 42-32 FPC13-DRose 0 02 58-49 FPC13-FarmTour6 0 05 16-20 FPC13-FarmTour9 0 00 02-59 FPC13-FarmTour9 0 05 21-58 FPC13-FarmTour12 0 00 14-50 FPC13-FlipchartSheets 0 00 08-47 FPC13-FlipchartSheets 0 00 20-31 FPC13-FlipchartSheets 0 00 40-44

If you want to get a feel for what was said and what was accomplished, you can view the program’s blog at http://www.financialpermaculture.org/. To learn more about the Financial Permaculture Institute and the 2013 program, check out http://www.financialpermaculture.com/.

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Past Events

Correction: We'll be hosting this year's holiday potluck — "Bringing Solar Power Home for the Holidays" — on Saturday, December 15, from 4 to 9 p.m. Click here for more details. RSVP to [email protected].
Saturday, November 17, 2012, 10 a.m. Eastern: Sustainable Neighborhood & Community Conversations (III).
Saturday, October 13, 2012, 10 a.m. Eastern: Transforming Neighborhoods and Communities II.
Saturday, September 8, 2012, 10 a.m. Eastern: Transforming Neighborhoods & Communities.
Saturday, June 16, 2012: SLF Potluck June 16: Sustainable Living Communities.
The Sustainable Haiti Conference took place April 23-25, 2012 in Miami.
"Inside Job" Movie Party. Saturday, February 11th, 6:00 PM, Liberty Ridge, The Hills, Bernards Twp, Basking Ridge, NJ 07920.
2nd 'Buy Haitian, Restore Haiti Conference', January 26, 2012, Karibe Convention Center, Petion Ville, Haiti
Dec 11 SLF Potluck: "Bringing Sustainability Home for the Holidays" Basking Ridge, NJ. RSVP to [email protected].
Saturday, July 9, 2011, 4 p.m. Open House Party & Potluck, Saturday, July 9, 4 p.m., Basking Ridge, NJ.
RSVP to [email protected]
Saturday, May 21, 1-4 p.m. EcoCenter Update. At the Morristown EcoCenter, 55 Bank Street, Morristown, NJ 07960.
Saturday, April 16, 1-4 p.m. "Haiti & Us: The Leading Edge of Sustainable Development." At the Morristown EcoCenter, 55 Bank Street, Morristown, NJ 07960. A copy of the update presentation has been posted here.
Saturday, March 19, 1-4 p.m. "Creating the Morristown EcoCenter." Held at 55 Bank Street, Morristown, the site of the proposed EcoCenter.
Saturday, February 19, 1-4 p.m. Monthly meeting, ""A Profound Transformation in Consciousness," Morris County Library, Whippany, NJ. Click here for details.
Saturday, January 15, 1-4 p.m. Putting Idealism into Practice: Tour of Half Moon House. Click here for details.
Saturday, December 18, 1-4 p.m. Challenge & Strategy Session: "Reinventing Wealth," followed by our annual "Potluck for the Planet" from 4 to 8. Click here for details.
Saturday, November 20, 1-4 p.m. Challenge & Strategy Session: "How Do We Measure Sustainable Value?". Click here for details.
Saturday, October 16, 1-4 p.m. Challenge and Strategy Session: "Toward a Sustainable Growth Strategy for New Jersey".
Download the slide presentation here, and the discussion paper here.

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